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Comedy From Hell
Bill Murray pub, Angel Comedy, London
THE young men in the front row aren’t sure what’s going on.
Let me explain it to them: they’re at a brand new comedy night called Comedy From Hell, and an Estonian clown is trying to get them to do high-fives with a plastic leg.
Sunday night audiences, as Mark Silcox suggests, are sophisticated and discerning. As opposed to Saturday ones, who just want topical gags and to be asked where they’re from.
Still, a largely wordless compere is a challenging gambit, even for a night celebrating “the outcasts, the buffoons, the banished.”
If anyone can make it work Julia Masli can, as her modern-Chaplin explorations of migration, belonging and shared play are as inspired, hilarious and strangely moving as any Gaulier graduate on the circuit.
And the bill is a riotous mix of the clown and the clown-adjacent, like a golden era Duckie but with fewer — zero — acts culminating in things disappearing into bottoms.
Instead we have rocking out to early noughties rock with Peaches-esque Andrea Spisto and her audience participation champions, including Replacement Steve after Initial Steve (a guy in that front row) refused to play imaginary guitar.
An even more chaotic performance comes from a nun — hi, Shea Wojtus — and who I can only assume was the pope, armed with a *real* guitar. They are here to a) strip and b) teach us about Jesus and give us the gift of eternal life through the oral ingestion of cheese and onion crisps.
Amid this beautiful carnage, being insulted by an Australian came almost as a palate cleanser. Lewis Blomfield’s antipodean drunk, here presented in nurse form, made mincemeat of the audience, guessed where our T-shirts came from and lambasted us, quite rightly, as cowards.
I don’t want to give too much away about the nature of Frankie Thompson’s act, as this is clearly a snippet of her Edinburgh show. But I’ve rarely seen lip syncing — done to death by many a comedian on TikTok — used to such inspired, narrative effect. Think the archive-raiding skills of Adam Curtis and the preposterousness of the most recent movie musical, and you’re getting close. Go see.
Our headliner is yet another Gaulier-trained human, the often sublime John-Luke Roberts, here playing a preposterously huge version of his own deceased father — on Father’s Day.
We, the audience, are all his children, and he administers admonishments and insults with all the care and love that we deserve.
“It’s not bullying, it’s just teasing” is the cheesy club catchphrase that never quite takes off. Still: preposterous oversized suit and all, his is a terrifying creation, one I hope — and dread — to see again.
Julia Masli’s Choosh and John Luke Roberts’ A World Just Like Our Own, but… can be seen at the Winchester Arc on July 1, www.arcwinchester.org.uk/; Bath Komedia on July 27, www.komedia.co.uk and throughout August at the Edinburgh Fringe.
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